Ira Harkavy Advocates for Increased Involvement to Achieve Health Equity

In the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Ira Harkavy of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that universities should be doing more to solve problems in nearby urban communities, including poverty, racism and health inequity. 

In “Engaging Urban Universities as Anchor Institutions for Health Equity,” Harkavy, associate vice president and founding director of Penn’s Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, illustrates the role of universities as anchor institutions in urban communities, using specific examples from Penn.  

Citing the work of Penn’s academically based community service courses, its economic inclusion initiatives and its work with the University City District as steps in the right direction, Harkavy wrote about a burgeoning movement that engages higher education institutions in democratic partnerships with their communities. 

“Service learning, community-based participatory research, volunteer projects and community economic development initiatives are some of the means that have been used to create mutually beneficial partnerships designed to make a positive difference in the community and on campus,” Harkavy wrote. 

In the article, Harkavy noted that most urban universities fall short when it comes to community engagement and calls for much more to be done if higher education institutions wish to be truly engaged. He suggested a comprehensive, significant and sustained involvement between universities and their communities.

“Democratic-minded academics across schools, fields and disciplines,” Harkavy wrote, “should work together to create and sustain a global movement dedicated to transforming universities, particularly urban universities, into truly engaged anchor institutions dedicated to developing and sustaining democratic community partnerships designed to advance knowledge and significantly improve the quality of life in communities.”

The full article is available at:

Ira Harkavy